Contact: Ron Trumbla
NOAA News Releases 2003
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The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded its prestigious Silver Medal to
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Offices Birmingham, Ala., Jackson, Miss. and, Morristown, Tenn. These offices are being honored for providing timely warnings and using innovative warning dissemination techniques to save lives during the Veterans Day weekend tornado outbreak (November 2002). NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce.

Between November 9th and 11th, 76 tornadoes affected 17 states and claimed 36 lives. It was the second largest November outbreak on record and more than a third of the tornadoes touched down in the warning areas served by these Weather Forecast Offices (WFO). During this period — 27 tornadoes occurred in their County Warning Areas (CWA) and 133 Tornado Warnings were issued with a combined average lead time of 15 minutes (national average: 11 minutes). Many residents received up to 20 minutes of warning and, in some instances, as much as 28 minutes.

In addition to their outstanding performance during the outbreak, the Birmingham, Jackson and Morristown WFOs conducted numerous awareness and information campaigns prior to the event — to help ensure the emergency managers, media and the public were prepared to respond appropriately to the dangers of severe weather. They also issued special statements and conducted briefings days in advance.

The offices also employed a range of innovative warning dissemination techniques, including Emergency Management radio networks, pagers and Instant (Internet) Messaging to alert and update emergency managers and TV meteorologists to the rapidly changing weather situation — and to receive verification reports from the field.

Despite the 20 deaths that occurred in the combined CWAs, emergency managers, local officials, the media and the public agreed the exceptional warning services provided by the WFOs prevented the death toll from going much higher. WFO Birmingham, Jackson and Morristown played a vital role in helping protect the public from one of the nation’s worst tornado outbreaks.

The award was presented at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. The Silver Medal is the Commerce Department’s second highest honorary award — presented annually for exceptional performance in support of the department’s critical objectives.

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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